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They view the mind as an iceberg, with the conscious being the tip floating visible above the water and the rest of the unconscious mind submerged below.Freud also believed that many problems that occur in adult life are the result of childhood issues, either because of the employment of defence mechanisms such as repression or projecting, or because of an unresolved conflict at one of the psychosexual stages An issue with the psychodynamic approach is that suffers from psychic determinism, the idea that childhood trauma or events determine behaviour in later life, this does not account for the idea of free will that humans are perceived to have.However, a psychoanalytic or psychodynamic approach may complement and enhance, although not replace, predominant theories of violence from other disciplines such as criminology, sociology and forensic psychiatry (Yakeley 2010).
Violence risk assessment has become a huge industry, and although the importance of dynamic, as well as actuarial, risk factors is now recognised, a more systematic approach exploring the psychodynamics in the aetiology, assessment and treatment of violent behaviour is often lacking.
In this article I revisit some of the key psychodynamic principles and concepts relevant to an understanding of violence, summarising the historical contributions of key psychoanalytic writers on violence and aggression, and exploring the ideas of more contemporary writers working in the field of forensic psychotherapy.
The humanistic approach has been assumed by many to be too idealistic, it states that humans are innately good and strive to be the best they can be, even in the presence of research such as Zimbardo’s prison study and Milgram’s shock test which point to the contrary, on the other hand, the psychodynamic approach is much less idealistic – through the tripartite personality it provides a combined view of human nature, with the ego balancing the selfish pleasure principle of the ID with the moral demands of the superego.
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Mentalisation A focus on mental states in oneself and others, recognising desires, needs, feelings, beliefs and reasons, especially in explanations of behaviour.
Normal mentalisation develops in the first few years of life in the context of safe and secure attachment relationships.
Violent acts may lead to post-traumatic stress disorder in perpetrators as well as victims (Minne 2008).
Improving offender health has been designated by the Department of Health as a priority area (Health Inequalities National Support Team 2011).